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Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter, 2000, 2:17a
© 2000 by Chelonian Research Foundation

Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter

Proposal to Place a Moratorium on All Fisheries Affecting the Diamondback Terrapin

Gregory Pokrywka (President, Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, Inc.) and the MATTS Board
2914 E. Joppa Rd. #103, Baltimore, MD 21234-3031; E-mail:gpokmd@bigfoot.com

Please support the following proposal to place a moratorium on the northern diamondback terrapin fishery in Maryland until the health, or lack thereof, of the population can be assessed and the illegal aspects of the fishery can be studied and properly regulated. Please send letters of support to the following two individuals:

1) Parris N. Glendening, Governor, State House, Annapolis, MD 21401; (410) 974-3901, 1-800-811-8336 (toll free,Maryland); Fax: (410) 974-3275; E-mail: governor@gov.state.md.us

2) Sarah J. Taylor-Rogers, Secretary of Natural Resources, Office of Secretary, M.D.N.R., Tawes State Office Bldg., 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401-2397; (410)260-8101; Fax:(410)260-8111; E-mail:staylor-rogers@dnr.state.md.us

The Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, Inc. (MATTS), representing over 100 concerned citizens, scientists and reptile hobbyists, would like to make the following statements and proposals:

Whereas the northern diamondback terrapin Malaclemys terrapin terrapin is a unique and beautiful part of Marylandís fauna, being the only North American turtle specifically adapted for a brackish (part saltwater and part freshwater) environment;

Whereas the northern diamondback terrapin has long been recognized as one of the traditional symbols of Chesapeake Bay and Maryland, and currently reigns as the Official State Reptile and mascot of the Univ. of Maryland;

Whereas turtles in general have recently been found to be disappearing globally at an alarming rate, due to overconsumption as food items and due to loss of habitat;

Whereas MATTS has obtained confirmed reports that, in addition to Marylandís regulated fishery, there exists a substantial unregulated fishery consisting of illegal removal of unknown numbers of terrapins from the Chesapeake Bay and transported across state lines for resale in the urban Asian seafood markets of the Northeastern U.S., chiefly New York City;

Whereas such illegal interstate transportation is a certain violation of the Federal Lacey Act;

Whereas growth of the U.S. urban Asian market consumption of turtles is on the rise and expected to accelerate in the near future (as has already happened in Southeast Asia);

Whereas detailed studies of terrapin populations have determined that small changes in adult survivorship, considerably less than those imposed by a commercial harvest, will rapidly result in dramatic population declines;

Whereas, at several localities outside of Maryland apparently healthy populations of terrapins have entirely disappeared in the last two decades;

Whereas there is no mechanism in place currently to determine the health of the Chesapeake Bayís population of northern diamondback terrapin, nor to study and quantify the illegal aspects of this fishery;

MATTS would like to propose a moratorium on all fisheries of northern diamondback terrapins until the health, or lack thereof, of the populations can be assessed, and the illegal aspects of the fishery can be studied and properly regulated.

Thank you for your assistance in preserving this important part of Chesapeake Bayís and Marylandís heritage!